Sunday, June 25, 2006

Teachers In Oaxaca Are Pissed, Will Gov.Ortiz Listen?


On May 15th, teachers of Oaxaca, Mexico held their annual march. They presented their 17 demands to the state goverment of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Among them were, funding for schools, textbooks, uniforms, & an increase in their salaries. Ortiz replied that the teacher's demands were impossible, & one week later the teacher's set up a tent city in the downtown area.
This was the 26th consecutive year that the teacher's demonstrated. The mood was festive for the first couple of days, with the teacher's camped out in tents & playing cards, like every year. They usually stay a few weeks, then find a compromise.
Rightfully upset, the teacher's talked about how school funding is horrible, only 20% of school uniforms are provided by the goverment, & 80% of students have to purchase their own. One teacher said, " I have been a teacher for 8 years and make 3,000 pesos ( about $ 275.00) every paycheck. Does that sound like enough to you?"
For 2 1/2 weeks the negotiations remained stagnant. Governer Ortiz claimed that the goverment didnt have the funds to meet the demands of the teachers, but the teachers refused to back down. The teachers began to block goverment offices, tollbooths, & even access to the airport. On June 2nd, they held a popular march that gained much support for their cause.
On June 7th, a larger march was planned, one that also included many others' upset with Ortiz's goverment. Along with the teachers, student groups, parents groups, several socialist's organizations, unions, & non-govermental organizations joined in the already large march. Official estimates put the number of marches at 120,000. After it was over, the teachers went back to their camps.
But a week later, on June 14th, everything took a very drastic change. Early that morning, a state police force entered the compound where the teachers were camping, complete with riot gear. A police helicopter circled, dropping canisters of tear gas down on the crowds. The police burned & destroyed almost all of the shelters where the teachers were staying. The police also dismantled Radio Planton, which had been broadcasting live. The teachers & supporters then organized themselves & began to fight back with rocks & sticks. They barricaded themselves with several busses, & cement was broke up to use to throw at the police.
After 5 or 6 hours of struggle, the teachers manage to retake Zocalo. But at least 40 teachers were injured & many arrested during the struggle. When everything calmed down, the teachers barricaded the city, & held meetings to restore some order.
Again, the teachers organized another march for June 16th. The number of protesters & supporters was amazing, & grew from last time. The weather turned bad, & it started to rain, but that did not deter the teachers at all. The population is sick & tired of Ortiz's goverment, & meeting their demands will not be enough now, they want him OUT, yelling things like, " We aren't one nor are we one hundred- damned goverment, count us well!" And, " If there isn't destitution, there will be revolution!"
The estimated number of total participants at the march were between 300,000 - 500,000!!!
The teachers of Oaxaca have opened the doors, will Ortiz slam them shut?